Weekend links 535

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The Wagnerites (1894) by Aubrey Beardsley.

• “Part of my problem with influence is that the concept is too univocal; most of us are impacted by many others during our lifetimes, but often in oblique ways. So many of the most interesting bits of cultural transmission happen nonlinearly, via large groups of people, and in zigzag mutations. Assigning influence can also have the unintentional effect of stripping artists of their own originality and vision.” Geeta Dayal reviewing Wagnerism by Alex Ross.

• “Buñuel stubbornly refused to have any group affiliation whatsoever. Even though critics always tried to categorize him, he never wanted to explain the hidden meanings of any of his films and often denied that there were any.” Matt Hanson on the surreal banality of Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel.

• Next month Soul Jazz release the fourth multi-disc compilation in their Deutsche Elektronische Musik series devoted to German music from the 1970s and 80s. The third collection was the weakest of the lot so I wasn’t expecting another but this one looks like it may be better.

James Balmont chooses the five best films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who he calls “cinema’s master of horror”. I’ve yet to see any of these so I can’t say whether the label is warranted or not.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine in a two-part post here and here charts the emergence of an under-examined sub-genre, the metaphysical thriller.

• Power Spots: 13 artists choose favourite pieces of music by Jon Hassell. A surprising amount of interest in his first album, Vernal Equinox.

• At Spine: George Orwell’s Animal Farm receives new cover designs for its 75th anniversary.

• “Pierre Guyotat’s work is more relevant now than ever,” says Donatien Grau.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 775 by Sarah Davachi.

May 24th by Matthew Cardinal.

• Ry Cooder with Jon Hassell & Jim Keltner: Video Drive-By (1993) | Goose And Lucky (1993) | Totally Boxed In (1993)

Saragossa Manuscript posters

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Polish poster (1965) by Jerzy Skarzynski who was also the film’s production designer.

I love The Saragossa Manuscript, both the novel by Potocki and the movie by Has. I saw the film three times which, in my case, is absolutely exceptional.

Luis Buñuel in My Last Sigh (1983)

No surprise that a lifelong Surrealist was enamoured with Jan Potocki’s rambling collection of stories-within-stories. The 1965 Polish film by Wojciech Has had another famous enthusiast in Jerry Garcia whose efforts to restore and reissue The Saragossa Manuscript helped bring the film to a new generation of viewers in 1999. I was a beneficiary of this, having been intrigued for years by descriptions whilst hoping in vain that it might turn up on television. I prefer the film to the novel although to be fair to Potocki it’s a long time since I read his book.

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Another Polish design showing Zbigniew Cybulski as Alphonse.

Watching The Saragossa Manuscript again this weekend sent me looking for posters, some of which can be seen below. There are odd omissions: plenty of examples from the Eastern Bloc countries but few at all from Western Europe. The film suffered by having its 3-hour running time hacked about by distributors which didn’t help its reception outside Poland. The manuscript of the title is a book discovered during a skirmish in the Napoleonic wars, an account of the strange adventures of Alphonse Van Worden in the Sierra Morena region of Spain; one of the soldiers reading the manuscript is Van Worden’s grandson, the first of many coincidental connections. Van Worden’s adventures seem macabre at first—there are more bones in the opening scenes than in many horror films—but they soon turn farcical. As a burgeoning cast of characters appears, many of whom have their own tales to tell, the mood veers into outright sex comedy, albeit with mild philosophical overtones. Some scenes aren’t very far removed from Monty Python, especially those that feature an inept band of Spanish Inquisitors.

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Background drawings from the title sequence. Yes, the score is by Penderecki, his first.

All of which means this is another film that presents a challenge for a poster designer. Most of the early examples take their cues from the opening titles whose backgrounds feature drawings with a vaguely Surrealist and occult flavour that I’m guessing are also the work of Jerzy Skarzynski.

Continue reading “Saragossa Manuscript posters”

The art of Juan de Valdés Leal, 1622–1690

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In ictu oculi (1672).

Having castigated Somerset Maugham yesterday for a novel that even he professed to dislike, thanks can be offered for the passage in The Magician which draws attention to a painter I hadn’t come across before. With a scythe-wielding skeleton snuffing a candle flame, and a bishop rotting in his casket, these are a very Spanish take on the vanitas genre. Some of the subsequent works of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel are less surprising when you see art that’s this grotesque.

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Finis gloria mundi (1672).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alfred Rethel’s Totentanz
The art of Jacopo Ligozzi, 1547–1627
Massachusetts memento mori
Skull cameras
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
The skull beneath the skin
Vanitas paintings
Very Hungry God
History of the skull as symbol

Un Chien Andalou

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What is there to say about Buñuel and Dalí’s timeless film that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the primary Surrealist documents and something that everyone should see at least once. Cyril Connolly attended the Paris premiere in 1929:

The picture was received with shouts and boos and when a pale young man tried to make a speech, hats and sticks were flung at the screen. In one corner a woman was chanting, “Salopes, salopes, salopes!” and soon the audience began to join in. With the impression of having witnessed some infinitely ancient horror, Saturn swallowing his sons, we made our way out into the cold of February, 1929, that unique and dazzling cold…

Why does this strong impression still persist? Because Un Chien Andalou brought out the grandeur of the conflict inherent in romantic love, the truth that the heart is made to be broken, and after it has mended, to be broken again. For romantic love, the supreme intoxication of which we are capable, is more than an intensifying of life; it is a defiance of it and belongs to those evasions of reality through excessive stimulus which Spinoza called “titivations.” By the law of diminishing returns our desperate century forfeits the chance of being happy and, because it finds happiness insipid, our world is regressing to chaos.

The film comes and goes on YouTube so serious viewers are directed to the BFI DVD/Blu-ray release which comes twinned with Buñuel’s L’Age D’Or.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier
Entr’acte by René Clair